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The Black Hole `Photo’: What Are We Looking At?

15 Apr 2019, 16:02 UTC
The Black Hole `Photo’: What Are We Looking At?
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

The short answer: I’m really not sure yet.
Neither are some of my colleagues who know more about the black hole geometry than I do. And at this point we still haven’t figured out what the Event Horizon Telescope experts do and don’t know about this question… or whether they agree amongst themselves.
[Note added: last week, a number of people pointed me to a very nice video by Veritasium illustrating some of the features of black holes, accretion disks and the warping of their appearence by the gravity of the black hole. However, Veritasium’s video illustrates a non-rotating black hole with a thin accretion disk that is edge-on from our perspective; and this is definitely not what we are seeing!]
As I emphasized in my pre-photo blog post (in which I described carefully what we were likely to be shown, and the subtleties involved), this is not a simple photograph of what’s `actually there.’ We all agree that what we’re looking at is light from some glowing material around the solar-system-sized black hole at the heart of the galaxy M87. But that light has been wildly bent on its path toward Earth, and so — just like a room ...

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